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The new Cats movie is deliciously wonderful and frankly if you think otherwise you've missed the point.

The trick to enjoying Cats is to suspend any preconceived judgement that might be lurking deep within your soul.

That’s not exactly the type of caveat that should be put on a movie that relies on performers transforming into felines to sing about being magical ‘Jellicle Cats’, as there’s nothing about this premise that even hints at logic, yet here we are.

After seeing the initial trailer for Cats, many people recoiled at the sight of the all-star cast kitted out in their cat wear (thanks to the use of new fur-technology) and dancing to Broadway hits, but the finished product from director Tom Hooper completely lands on its feet.

Cats is mesmerising, magical and most of all just completely wickedly weird and absurd, so pretty much just everything fans of the musical would expect it to be.

Just like the successful stage show the movie is based on Cats tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles. The audience is brought into their London-based world on the night they are preparing to witness the “Jellicle Choice”, where it is decided which cat deserves to ascend to a place called the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new and improved life.

In Cats, a young cat named Victoria (Francesca Hayward) is roughly tied up in a sack and thrown away to make her own way on the streets of London where she lands in a labyrinth of winding backstreets, empty restaurants and shadowy houses frequented by the Jellicles.

It is here that she meets the calm and commanding Munkustrap (Robbie Fairchild), a magician in training cat named Mr Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson), a gummy housecat by the name of Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) and the cat who will make the Jellicle Choice, Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench).

Attempting to thwart the Jellicle Choice and steal the chance of a new life for himself is Macavity the Mystery Cat (Idris Elba), a master criminal who also possesses his own set of mystical powers.

Francesca Hayward as Victoria and Robbie Fairchild as Munkustrap in Cats. Source: Universal Pictures.

Macavity is aided in his evil plot by the minx-like Bombalurina, played by Taylor Swift, in the only sequence from Cats that feels like a stylized music video rather than an offbeat stage show.

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It's clear Swift was brought in to create a more modern pop-star moment, as she's granted one big solo musical turn (to the sexiest tune of the show, Macavity) and descends from the ceiling by reclining on a crescent moon swing while casually tapping her high-heel encrusted paws (don't question it) and pretty much roofieing the Jellicle Cats with a can of glittering Catnip (don't ask).

Cats is at it's very best when it allows it's cast to fully embrace the absurdity of their situation and my favourite moments from the film were when the actors were allowed to go 'full cat'. There's a delicious creepiness that comes with seeing these humanoid cats slink through these opulent sets just before they burst into manic show tunes.

Taylor Swift as Bombalurina in Cats. Source: Universal Pictures.

According to Cats star Jason Derulo, who plays Rum Tum Tugger (a cat who is billed as 'always wanting to be the centre of attention' but is known among fans as the 'hot cat') said the cast all went through an intense training program, known as Cat School, in order to learn to psychically move and think like felines.

"Rum Tum Tugger is the character cat, he’s a player and a flirt," Jason Derulo told Mamamia. "While filming, Cat School never stopped, it continued throughout the entire film and the cat teacher was there for every scene. Cat School is basically where we learned all about felines, how they move, what they eat and why they act the way they do. So each actor had to decide which ideas to pull from that and what would work for all of our different cats.

"A lot of the lead actors are up on two feet a lot of the time during the movie, whereas my cat was on all fours. So at the drop of a dime, I could be on all fours, so it was a lot more core work involved. I got to really dive into this world which I hope will really transport people when they see the movie."

Director Tom Hooper has said in interviews that following the extreme reaction to the first look Cats images and trailer, he set about modifying the look of the characters, especially considering that the CG work was still incomplete at that time of their release.

But Derulo refuses to hear a bad word about the original trailer or the finished movie product, saying that he was blown away by how it all came together.

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"It was crazy, it was unbelievable," he told Mamamia about seeing the Cats trailer for the first time. "I was at the gym on the treadmill and I could not finish my workout, I had to leave.

"I was really really affected by it, and I felt like it was a whole new beginning for me, it looked like a movie I would die to see had I not been in it. I couldn’t believe it was really happening.

"The most surprising element of the film is the entire world itself, just being transported into a world of cat people and seeing what they’re like. It’s all about explaining what the Jellicle life is all about. The way we look and the way we move will be really shocking and polarising for people."

Jason Derulo as Rum Tum Tugger in Cats. Source: Universal Pictures.

It's easy to predict that Cats will appeal more broadly to people like me, longtime fans of the musical who know every beat of the songs by heart and who watch the movie eagerly awaiting the reveals of their favourite cat characters.

In reality, people who unashamedly like Cats already know that their tastes are a little more offbeat and so are not easily offended by the sight of Sir Ian McKellen sporting whiskers and rubbing himself against a pole as Gus the Theatre Cat.

A lot of reviewers will label Cats as a freakish horror show or a twisted CGI nightmare, in a (somewhat lazy) attempt to build on the speculation that's already flared up around the film before its official release.

Cats exists to be two hours of whimsical fun, a love letter to a successful stage show and to introduce you to a gaggle of cats who frankly don't owe you an explanation as to why some of them are wearing clothes and some of them are not.

And if you don't want to sit through that, then you don't deserve the Jellicle Cats.

Cats will open in Australian cinemas on Boxing Day. 

Feature Image: Universal Pictures.


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